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French Revolution, Masonry And

When French Fascists began the concerted movement to overthrow the French Republic they organized a bureau, a set of bureaus in reality, to make war on Freemasonry because they believed the Lodges, centers of Protestantism and supporters of free public schools, to be one of the Republic's strongest supports. In doing so they employed in the 1920's one Bernard Fa to write and publish a number of books which would undermine Freemasonry not by a direct attack but under the disguise of a fair and good-humored series of historical and biographical studies. Mr. Fay came to the United States to write a biography of Benjamin Franklin. In his capacity as a friendly visiting French scholar he visited the Grand Lodge Library of New York, in New York City, where he asked the courtesy of making use of it in order, he said, to incorporate some pages on Franklin as a Mason, for, he said, he believed that Franklin's Masonry had been a prime influence in his career, etc.

The courtesy was granted and the facilities of the Library staff were put at his disposal. But when the biography appeared (it sold widely) it transpired that Mr. Fay had not sought out the data on Franklin's Masonry to incorporate them truthfully in his book but in order to twist and subtly distort them. There is scarcely a true statement in his pages; he even states that Franklin set out to "build up a Masonic press" in the Colonies in order to undermine the government and to throw dictation into the hands of the Masons! Had this been true the fifty or sixty Masons in Philadelphia would have been more than busy l The thing is a piece of mendacity, and it was unfortunate that the Fraternity had no means to make known that fact to the publishers and to the book reviewers.

Mr. Fay brought his contemptible purpose into the light with another book, also published by an American firm, in 1935, under the title of Revolution and Freemasonry. The Fraternity cannot have the right nor could it have the desire to dictate to American publishers what they may or may not publish, but again it was unfortunate that no responsible Masonic agency did not make clear to the general public what a set of lies were incorporated in that book, and did not protest to the American publisher for sponsoring a volume in which the facts about Freemasonry were distorted, and with statements fabricated out of nothing. Other books against the Fraternity had met with no resentment because they had been written at least with sincerity, and were untrue only because of ignorance; the Fa books were of another species, because he was too well-informed not to know how false to facts his statements were.

The two books taken together were American Masonry's first experience of an anti-Masonic technique which had been a employed in Europe since the 1890's--a bold, open t assertion of lies and false accusations. The French Revolution was an explosion of resentment by a whole people against an inhuman regime did not begin anywhere in particular; was not conspired or engineered. Except for a few, the French people had then never even heard of Freemasonry because the Lodges were small and there were few of them. Moreover there were as many Masons among the Royalist parties as among the Revolutionary leaders. The general popularity of the Craft which burst out so suddenly about 1800 was one of the 6SUltsS not one of the causes, of the Revolution. (Revolution and Freemasonry, by Bernard Fay; Boston; Little, Brown & Co.; 1935. After the fall of France in 1940 a Bernard Fay was assigned to turn into the Petain headquarters at Vichy and the German offices in Paris a list of the names and addresses of Masons throughout France, in order that they should be 'purged"; at present writing it is not certain that this was the same Bernard Fay who came to America to traduce a Fraternity to which the President belonged, but both the circumstances and reports from abroad indicate that it was. In a list of enemies published by the French underground who were nuned for assassination published in Life Magazine his name stood third in a list of ten. See also The t Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, by Nesta Webster.)

Volume VIII of the Cambridge Modern History consists of a history of the French Revolution. The sifted and tested findings of thousands of historians and specialists who for a century and a half had been at work accumulating data were either represented or incorporated which means that the volume was supported by the whole body of European, British, and American scholarship and at the same time was sponsored by a University which ranks above others in the field of historical research. Against a history of that comprehensive authority a man like Mr. Fay or a woman like Mrs. Webster have no weight.

The Cambridge volume contains more words than ten large books of ordinary size and is a solid mass of facts; yet in it are only three references to Masonry and the Revolution; of these, two are items without significance; the third is on page 772, in Chapter XXV: "The Masonic movement had challenged traditional ideas." Had the whole body of historical scholarship found that the Revolution had been a Masonic conspiracy and had been engineered and led by the Fraternity, Freemasonry would have been the subject-in-chief of the whole volume.

When Pope Leo in 1894 set up his Church's Anti Masonic Bureau, and when Fascists of Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Belgium, and Spain made the obliteration of Freemasonry one of the first undertakings on their agenda, they adopted the technique of, first, attacking the personal reputation of individual Masonic leaders; second, of publishing defamatory accusations which were to be made of lies as large as possible and stated as brazenly as possible on the presupposition that the majority of readers would be too little informed about the Fraternity to resist an cut-in-the-open mendacity.

That technique proved in its results to be so effectual in Europe that it is almost certain to be adopted by Anti-Masons in America. As regards any action taken for or against the French Revolution by Regular and Duly-constituted Lodges of English-speaking Freemasonry there is no room for guesswork or surmise (as was explained to Mr. Fay in person when he was in New York) because a detailed, complete record of evidence is available to any historian. The present writer read for the period 1775-1815 the histories and Minute books of some 200 British and American Lodges with this subject in view and found that British Lodges almost never so much as mentioned the Revolution except in some two or three instances where something was done "with reference to the troubles in France."

The British government was at war with France from 1801 to the Battle of Waterloo; Lodges without exception continued loyal to their Government, and offices in Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodges were occupied by members of the Royal Family.

The only action of any kind taken by any British Lodges was to vote relief to French prisoners kept in England, a Red Cross type of relief action and without political significance. In American Lodges the Revolution was even more completely ignored. The only exception of importance is page 37 of One Hundred and Seventy-five Years of Masonic History of Lodge No. 2 (1758-1933) by Percival H. Granger; Philadelphia; 1933; "We are told that the year 1793 was a portentous one." The French emigres arrived in Philadelphia in large numbers about this time and exerted a baneful influence upon our whole social and political economy, for a time even threatening the stability of our government and attempting to impeach and overthrow President Washington. The first arrivals were fugitive royalists, and then later were fugitives from San Domingo, and still later, Genet, the representative of the new French Republic, and his followers. The latter were opposed to religious services, and during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 succeeded in closing all but twelve churches in Philadelphia. Their agitation, however, had little effect upon the Lodges. Our Revolutionary War had won us independence from Great Britain but had up to then left undisturbed the social institutions which had been imported from Great Britain; the War had not revolutionized American soaety and was not to do so in effect until the Presidency of Andrew Jackson; the French Revolutionists through Genet came to start a revolution here like the revolution in France. The French counterrevolutionists, led by the Royalists and the Roman hierarchy, wealthy and powerful, worked from centers outside of France to destroy the new Republic in America in order to discredit the Revolution in France. Between the two, Frenchmen in general aroused so much resentment and hatred of both parties that the friendliness Americans had felt for France in 1781 gave way to hatred for everything French, and by 1825 had led to that complete ignoring of France and indifference to everything "Frenchified" that was to continue until after 1900.

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